Beep, beep, beep, beep… a timer interrupted. I had completed the first ever 20 minute trial using the TDU. Mitch placed his hand on my shoulder and assisted as we removed the TDU from my tongue and said “Cheryl, how are you doing?” I slowly opened my eyes and could tell something was different. It was an invisible something so amazing that at first I could not speak. All I could do was stand in a silence I’d not felt in over 6 years. It was unlike any kind of silence I had ever heard or felt. It wasn’t a sound, it wasn’t a touch, but rather it was a magnificent, all embracing sense of silence and an attention that was so direct that even the tiniest of details were observable and attention only to the present moment was necessary.
I could feel the environment around me; I could sense its importance of being connected with it. All that was floundering aimlessly externally and internally within me ceased its noise, as if silently suspended. Misplaced segments of my wholeness had harmoniously found their way back to a cooperative note of the beautiful instrument called connection. I was reunited with all that had gone haywire through the loss of vestibular function. It was as if Humpty Dumpty had been put back together again!
Still standing in the same place when the beep interrupted, I removed the helmet. I felt myself taller, firmer to the ground, I could sense the ground! I knew exactly where I was in the space of my environment, however, it went further than that, I had been placed back together as an actual part of my environment, the surroundings on which I was standing. My every perceptual and proprioceptive sense were once again holding hands and working together.
Those 20 minutes were like 20 hours of complete stillness and silence condensed. Even though I could “hear” the chatter of those in the room, I wasn’t listening; they were only there, as if part of the experience. I didn’t pay attention to them, only to the experience I was encapsulated in.
With the 20 minutes up, at first it was as if waking from a dream, I heard nothing, literally nothing, not even thought. It wasn’t until Mitch and others began to ask questions that I found myself returned to the place from which I started; only the place was completely different. I remember tilting my head from shoulder to shoulder while looking at a corner of a wall. I don’t know why this was my first action, but I felt I had to do this to see if there was any difference in the intensity of my oscillopsia (the bouncy-blurry vision). A strange effect I experienced being without balance and having oscillopsia is that if I were to stand, or sit, and look into my surroundings, tilt my head from side to side, what I perceived was that everything looked as if it were tilting, as if the world was on a teeter totter, it would tilt back and forth horizontally. If I nodded my head up and down, the same effect would happen vertically only with a shaking up and down motion. But this time, the walls of the room remained still. Yet, what was truly astounding to me was that I didn’t feel, or even sense a movement in my body. Before my perception of things bouncing and blurring in my line of vision would cause me to stumble, loose my balance and even fall to the ground. What I experienced in this trial was monumental to me because the constant battle I had been fighting between no sense of balance and the oscillopsia, made it impossible for me to feel grounded, connected. Now, looking at that wall while tilting my head, seeing it stay literally as firm as it really does, I did not move with it. I was rock solid in my sight, my stance and in my balance. I felt cured.
It was here that I began to cry… and began to understand how important this discovery was going to be in my life. And, it was the beginning of many joyful customary dances with Paul Bach-y-Rita.
Paul and I dancing after a 20 minute trial